Samuel Worsham Beauchamp

Display Name: 
Samuel Worsham Beauchamp
Sort Name: 
Beauchamp, Samuel Worsham
AKA: 
Butch Beauchamp
Race: 
Black
Gender: 
Male
Class: 
Free Black
Rank: 
Major
Vitality: 
Dies
Occupation: 
Criminal
Date of Birth: 
Thursday, January 1, 1914 to Thursday, December 31, 1914
Origin: 
Yoknapatawpha
Cause of Death: 
Executed
Biography: 

As he tells the census taker, to whom he identifies himself by his real name, Samuel Worsham Beauchamp was "born in the country near Jefferson, Mississippi" (256). Like well over a million rural black southerners by the 1930s, he has relocated to the urban north. According to him, his "occupation" in Chicago before he shot and killed a policeman was "getting rich too fast" (256); according to Gavin Stevens, he was a criminal involved in the numbers racket. Gavin calls him "Butch Beauchamp" (258), and is the source for most of the other information the story provides about him: how he was raised by his grandmother after his mother died in childbirth and his father deserted him; how he was kicked off the McCaslin-Edmonds' place after being caught breaking into the plantation store; how he lived for a year in Jefferson "gambling and fighting" (258) before attacking the policeman who catches him breaking into a local store; how he broke out of jail and fled from the county. According to the narrator, in the brief firsthand account he provides of the character, Beauchamp is a flamboyant dresser (his "Hollywood clothes" are probably a zoot suit), with "treated" hair, eyes that "had seen too much" and a voice that was "deliberately and consistently not Southern" (257). The narrator presents him as hardened and indifferent to his imminent execution. Stevens blames "some seed" he inherited from "the father who begot him," "not only violent but bad" (258). His grandmother, Mollie, explains his life with a scriptural parallel, blaming his misfortune on Roth Edmonds, the white landowner who, she says, "sold him into Egypt" when he chased him off the plantation (258).

Note: 
Samuel Worsham Beauchamp's mother died in childbirth and his father deserted him. His grandmother Mollie Worsham Beauchamp raised him on the McCaslin-Edmonds plantation in Yoknapatawpha County. Carothers Edmonds, the current owner of that plantation, "caught the boy breaking into his commissary store and had him ordered off the place and had forbidden him ever to return" (259). At the age of nineteen, he moves to Jefferson and goes by the name "Butch" Beauchamp. He spends a year "in and out of the city jail for gambling and fighting, and at last under serious indictment for breaking and entering a store" (258). A Jefferson police officer confronts him in Rouncewell's store, and in the altercation that ensues Beauchamp hits the officer with an iron pipe and the officer pistol whips him in return. Two nights later Beauchamp escapes from the Jefferson city jail and eventually ends up in Chicago. He learns how to speak without a southern accent and takes on an alias. The story suggests that he leads a lucrative life of crime. When the census taker asks Beauchamp about his profession at the beginning of the story, he responds, "Getting rich too fast" (256). Even in prison, he wears "one of those sports costumes called ensembles in the newspaper advertisements, shirt and trousers matching and cut from the same fawn-colored flannel, and they had cost too much and were draped too much, with too many pleats" (256). He is convicted of killing a cop in Chicago, and he is executed at a penitentiary in Joliet, Illinois. Mollie Beauchamp and Belle Worsham exhort Gavin Stevens to arrange for his body to be returned to Yoknapatawpha County, where it will be buried on the McCaslin-Edmonds plantation. Gavin Stevens and the story's third person narrator (perhaps in instances of free-indirect discourse that could be attributed to Stevens) provide a quasi-eugenicist rationale for Beauchamp's crimes. They assert that he was doomed by his father's criminality, that he grew from "some seed not only violent but bad" (258). Mollie Beauchamp, however, suggests a different reason. She blames Carothers Edmonds for banishing him from the plantation and thus thrusting him into a life of crime and a wider world of racial hostility--"Roth Edmonds done sold my Benjamin. Solid him in Egypt. Pharaoh got him" (257).
Financial Status: 
controls substantial wealth
Individual or Group: 
Individual
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Character